'My Little Pony' goes geek

Editor's note: Erika D. Peterman is a Florida-based writer and editor, and the co-creator of the comics blog

Geek icons and My Little Pony may not seem like the most obvious companions, but in Jodi Moisan and Mari Kasurinen’s hands, the two become miniature works of art.

Both artists’ websites are rabbit holes of delight, showcasing painstakingly re-designed toy ponies inspired by fantasy/sci-fi characters, superheroes and pop culture figures. Once you see the diminutive equines recast as Red Sonja, Batgirl, Cthulu and Darth Maul, you’ll want one.

Kasurinen and Moisan are part of a thriving My Little Pony toy-mod community online, and while they aren’t the only artists to make nerd-approved interpretations of the ponies, they bring a remarkable level of detail and authenticity to their creations. Both are comic book, fantasy and science fiction fans whose work represents the artistic passion that many geeks have for the toy.

Kasurinen, who is based in Berlin, Germany, said her My Little Icon sculptures satisfied her interest in pop culture and the phenomenon of customization, as well as her artistic desire to transform a toy from her childhood. After trying Barbies, Action Man and He-Man dolls, and even tin soldiers, Kasurinen settled on My Little Pony as the ideal canvas.

“They are so plain — some plastic and fake hair. They didn’t have a gender, and the fact that I could transform a human character into pony form was really exciting,” said Kasurinen, who uses only first-generation My Little Ponies made in the 1980s. “I had a lot of new nuances to play with. There were no boundaries.”

Kasurinen’s first piece was a Batman pony that she made in 2008. She has since sculpted dozens of My Little Icons, including Rorschach from “Watchmen,” Harley Quinn and Spock, and pop culture icons like Lady Gaga and Marilyn Monroe.

Moisan and her son, both “Star Wars” fans, used to go to toy shows in search of classic action figures for his collection. She was intrigued by some custom-made versions, but since they were so expensive, she decided to use her art skills to make them herself. When Moisan shared some of her work on a comic book website thread, another member posted a photo of a plain My Little Pony and urged her to re-design one.

It was the perfect challenge for Moisan, who grew up reading a variety of comics and even had a horse of her own. The enthusiastic response to her first pony model, The Thing from "Fantastic Four," encouraged her to keep going.

“The moment I saw that Hasbro blank pony, I felt the stars were aligned, the heavens opened and angels sang,” said Moisan, whose pony collection includes The Punisher, Luke Cage and Green Lantern. “I have a great time doing them because they are for fun, like the custom toys I made for my son.”

These are not quick crafting projects. Kasurinen uses polymer clay, nylon hair, acrylic paint and varnish, and a customized pony can take from 10 to 20 hours to complete depending on its complexity. “The piece has to be so well crafted that it looks as if it was done by a machine,” said the artist, who sells her My Little Icons on her website and also does commissions.

Moisan does extensive research to make sure the ponies are true to their characters’ look. Some require sculpted add-ons and multiple firings. Her ponies are not for sale, but she has donated her work for auction in the Wonder Woman Museum’s annual event supporting anti-domestic violence programs.

The possibilities are endless. Kasurinen just finished a My Little Karl Lagerfeld, complete with dark shades, for a group exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum of Rome. Her next commission piece is a My Little Ezio Auditore from the game Assassin’s Creed, and after that, she said she’ll return to (hint) “a galaxy far, far away” to complete a portrait that’s especially important to her.

“I grow very attached to the piece I’m working on, every time,” Kasurinen said. “I guess I can say that my favorite one is the one I’m making. The process is very rewarding and emotional, like a long conversation.”